What you can expect
When you check in for your surgery, you'll be asked to remove your clothes and put on a hospital gown. You'll be given either a spinal block, which numbs the lower half of your body, or a general anesthetic.
Your surgeon might also give you a nerve block by injecting an anesthetic around nerves or in and around the joint to help block pain after your surgery.
During the procedure
The surgical procedure takes a few hours. To perform a hip replacement, your surgeon:
- Makes an incision over the front or side of your hip, through the layers of tissue
- Removes diseased and damaged bone and cartilage, leaving healthy bone intact
- Implants the prosthetic socket into your pelvic bone, to replace the damaged socket
- Replaces the round ball on the top of your femur with the prosthetic ball, which is attached to a stem that fits into your thighbone
Techniques for hip replacement are constantly evolving. Surgeons continue to develop less invasive surgical techniques, which might reduce recovery time and pain.
After the procedure
After surgery, you'll be moved to a recovery area for a few hours while your anesthesia wears off. Medical staff will monitor your blood pressure, pulse, alertness, pain or comfort level, and your need for medications.
Some people can go home the same day, but most are admitted to the hospital for one or two nights. You'll be asked to breathe deeply, cough or blow into a device to help keep fluid out of your lungs.
Blood clot prevention
After your surgery, you'll be at increased risk of blood clots in your legs. Possible measures to prevent this complication include:
- Moving early. You'll be encouraged to sit up and walk with crutches or a walker soon after surgery. This will likely happen the same day as your surgery or on the next day.
- Applying pressure. Both during and after surgery, you might wear elastic compression stockings or inflatable air sleeves similar to a blood pressure cuff on your lower legs. The pressure exerted by the inflated sleeves helps keep blood from pooling in the leg veins, reducing the chance that clots will form.
- Blood-thinning medication. Your surgeon might prescribe an injected or oral blood thinner after surgery. Depending on how soon you walk, how active you are and your overall risk of blood clots, you might need blood thinners for several weeks after surgery.
A physical therapist might help you with exercises you can do in the hospital and at home to speed recovery.
Activity and exercise must be a regular part of your day to regain the use of your joint and muscles. Your physical therapist will recommend strengthening and mobility exercises and will help you learn how to use a walking aid, such as a walker, a cane or crutches. As therapy progresses, you'll usually increase the weight you put on your leg until you're able to walk without assistance.
Home recovery and follow-up care
Before you leave the hospital, you and your caregivers will get tips on caring for your new hip. For a smooth transition:
- Arrange to have a friend or relative prepare some meals for you
- Place everyday items at waist level, so you won't have to bend down or reach up
- Consider making some modifications to your home, such as getting a raised toilet seat if you have an usually low toilet
- Put things you need, such as your phone, tissues, TV remote, medicine and books near the area where you'll be spending most of your time during recovery
Six to 12 weeks after surgery, you'll have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon to make sure your hip is healing properly. If recovery is progressing well, most people resume at least some version of their normal activities by this time. Further recovery with improving strength will often occur for six to 12 months.